Review: Razor Girl, by Carl Hiaasen

Posted: November 19, 2017 in Book Reviews
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Razor Girl, by Carl Hiaasen, cover(Razor Girl, by Carl Hiaasen. Knopf, 2017, $35.95, 333 pp.)

If you need some relief from the sociopath in chief, from the relentless, surly glob of suet that Grant Brisbee describes as the “walking embodiment of the seven deadly sins,” here you go.

Carl Hiaasen delivers some welcome and extremely funny not-quite-escapism in Razor Girl, which in many ways is a typical Hiaasen novel. (In this context, “typical” is a very good thing.) It’s set in Florida, and it abounds in grotesque characters, grotesque incidents, amusing, well written dialogue, and laugh-out-loud passages, the funniest of which involves the side effects of a “male enhancement” product and a blood pressure cuff. There’s also pointed political and social commentary, and, as always in Hiiasen’s novels, sympathetic central characters with decidedly casual respect for the law.

The title character in Razor Girl, Merry Mansfield, is based on a real person who, like Merry, engaged in a common criminal scam involving deliberate auto accidents. What’s not common about Merry and the actual criminal is that they engage(d) in this scam while shaving their . . . well, no need to go there. . . .

The central male character is Andrew Yancy, a former detective who was busted to “roach patrol” (health inspector) after assaulting an ex-girlfriend’s husband with a mini-vacuum cleaner. Here, Yancy wants to gain reinstatement by investigating the disappearance in Key West of Buck Nance, the patriarch in the highly staged “reality” TV show, Bayou Brethren, which follows the misadventures of a supposed clan in the Florida panhandle that runs a rooster farm.

Shortly, we meet a variety of well drawn, seedy characters, including Martin Trebeaux the founder of Sedimental Journeys, a company that illegally dredges sand in one place and then sells it in another; Brock Richardson, an entitled, grubbily materialistic Miami lawyer who’s made a career of hustling product-liability cases; Lance Coolman, the sleazy agent who represents Buck Nance; and Buck’s super fan, idiot racist, homophobe, and career criminal Blister Krill, who’s so obsessed with Bayou Brethren that he’s had Buck’s nickname (from the rooster farm), “Captain Cock,” tattooed across his shoulders.

Without giving anything else away, we’ll note that while this is a comic novel, there are a lot of characters and the plot is fairly complex, so you need to pay attention as you read, which is one of the book’s strengths: Razor Girl is much more than just a collection of funny characters and incidents — it’s well plotted, and its author never insults the reader’s intelligence.

Highly recommended.

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